Visiting Through Closed Windows; Families Ask DeWine to Ease Visitation Restrictions at Nursing Homes

Families say loved ones are declining rapidly due to extreme isolation and perceived abandonment.

It’s been nearly three months since Marjorie Williams has seen her family, except through a closed window, and it has taken a toll on the 89-year-old nursing home resident.

Marjorie’s family is one of many families left bewildered by Governor DeWine’s recent announcement to begin easing visitation restrictions at assisted living facilities – but failed to include nursing homes, which have been locked-down since early March.

Regardless of the visitation ban which was intended to keep COVID out, the virus found its way into some 200 of Ohio’s 960 nursing homes.

Many families have reported significant declines in the health of their loved ones during this time, due to isolation, perceived abandonment and because no one is there to advocate or assist with care.

“I’m so crushed at this news,” said Melissa Williams, Marjorie’s daughter-in-law. “These are typically people nearing the end of their lives. They are suffering, and we as family members are suffering. It would be terrible if they passed during this time and our last memories are of them being alone.”

Marjorie Williams gets out of her room for a brief visit with family through a closed window.

DeWine announced this week that assisted-living and intermediate care facilities for individuals with development disabilities can begin to allow outdoor visitation beginning June 8. DeWine stated that he came to this decision because of the impact a prolonged loss of connection can have on quality of life.

“He is not going to allow nursing home residents to have this same opportunity for visits,” said Williams. “It is incredibly cruel to leave them out. It is heart-wrenching for all of us who are left out in the cold with this news.”

Marjorie has been in a Mansfield nursing home since October after taking several falls and a bried hospitalization. The family visited with her regularly before DeWine’s order to lockdown such facilities.

Families ask Gov. DeWine to ease visitation restrictions before it’s too late.

“People in nursing homes typically have Alzheimer’s or dementia. They have a hard time grasping why we cannot come in to visit them. They feel abandoned and we have been forced to abandon them.

“We have to remember these folks are not only isolated from their families, they are isolated from other residents, basically banished to their rooms. Imagine how it is for them. They are being locked down like prisoners. It seems inhumane to me.”

Williams said that when they visit with 89-year-old Marjorie through a closed window, she asks why they can’t come inside or why she cannot go outside.

“These are difficult patients to work with and they respond best when there is family assistance.”

Williams said that locking out visitors was supposed to protect them from covid. “Yet nothing was done to protect them from staff who could carry it in to them. So it seems it was all for nothing.”

The family went to visit Marjorie over Memorial Day weekend.

“She didn’t remember any of our names,” said Williams. “She is losing her ability to remember, and our absence makes it more difficult. It broke our hearts.

“I don’t think DeWine understands how this is affecting the children who have to be away from the grandparents they adore. Our 16-year-old granddaughter Emma was among the window visitors. She had to turn away because she literally broke into tears and was sobbing.

“My mother-in-law is an amazing woman who has been there for everyone and now when she needs us the most we can’t be there for her,” said Williams. “She owned a couple businesses and lost her husband when he was 37 to heart disease. She raised her two sons by herself and never remarried.

“I’ve heard from so many people who are in the same boat and it is heartbreaking. I wish someone would ask the Governor why he is excluding nursing homes. I’ve tried to reach out to DeWine and he ignores me.”